AUSTIN, Texas – Hot air balloons aren’t just tourist attractions anymore.
Soon, they may be the newest way to reduce the feral hog and coyote populations in Texas.
A bill to let Texans hunt feral hogs and coyotes from hot air balloons ricocheted through the House and Senate and now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott for consideration.
“We’ve got a problem here and we are willing to fix it ourselves,” state Rep. Mark Keough, R-The Woodlands, told the Texas Observer. “We have that Western, swashbuckling, cowboying type of way to deal with things.
“It’s part of the culture, it’s different than any other state.”
Some lawmakers say the bill is needed because the populations of feral hogs and coyotes continue to grow and create problems for landowners.
The problem, mainly, is feral hogs, long blamed for tearing up Texans land and crops, especially as their population reaches around 2 million a year here.
In 2011, Texas lawmakers signed off on so-called “pork choppers,” letting Texans hunt feral hogs from helicopters.
The law was brought up by now Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who then served as a Republican state representative.
“It’s not a joke anymore,” Miller said at the time. “They cause almost half a billion dollars in damage in our state. Our wildlife service has been spending $25 million a year trying to control them.
“It’s not just an agricultural problem. Now they are uprooting tombstones in cemeteries; they are damaging golf courses, city parks and suburban lawns.”
Lawmakers say hunting from hot air balloons, not helicopters, is the way to best reduce these wild animal populations.
Hot air balloons are more affordable and quieter — and they give hunters a more stable way of setting up their shots, supporters say.
Under the bill, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code would have to adopt rules as needed to let hunters contract to hunt or observe the hunting.
If Abbott signs the bill into law, it would go into effect Sept. 1. The governor has not weighed in on the issue yet.